Donald Trump created yet another uproar last night by openly suggesting to his supporters that should Hillary Clinton become president, perhaps "second amendment people" can stop her or her judicial nominees. The only ambiguity in Trump's comment was whether he was inviting assassination attempts against Hillary Clinton or against her potential judicial nominees. That Donald Trump was openly contemplating political assassination cannot be disputed by reasonable people. And because he is, his supporters are emboldened to yell "kill her" at his rallies, referring to Hillary Clinton.
But Donald Trump is hardly the first prominent Republican to flirt with political violence. Before there was chants of "lock her up" at the Republican convention in 2016, there were calls to kill Barack Obama at McCain-Palin rallies in 2008. Before there was Donald Trump calling for political violence against his opponent, Sarah Palin set the low bar by her vitriol against Obama accusing him of "palling around with terrorists."
Once Barack Obama was elected president, the stream of calls for political violence only grew, if at best with deafening silence from the Republican leadership. The Tea Party went on the streets with signs that read "We came unarmed (this time)" and "by ballot or bullet". Response from GOP leaders? Free speech.
When a member of Congress was shot in the head in the midst of a political event by a right wing nutjob, Republican leaders put up all kinds of prayers of Gabby Giffords, but for their ideology and the rhetoric they had grown within their own political movement, they merely sought to separate their political backers from a 'few bad apples', just as they had when another radical shot a physician for the crime of providing women's health care.
Not only did the Republican leadership fail to stand up to their party's violent element, their very own nominee for Senate in Nevada in 2010 openly espoused "second amendment remedies" should Democrats have held onto their control of Congress in that year's election.
Perhaps the most damning of all, Republicans in Congress refused to act on common sense gun safety measures as violence and mass shooting became commonplace. When a military base was shot up, they refused to act. When places of worship were gunned down, they hid behind NRA's lobbyists. When a college campus was turned into a horror scene, they brushed aside the suggestion that something needs to be done. When elementary school children were massacred, they tripped over themselves to protect domestic terrorists' right to own assault rifles.
Even with the largest mass shooting in American history in Orlando Florida at a gay night club still fresh in the national memory, Republican leaders are still placing the interests of the gun lobby to sell deadly weapons to dangerous people over the safety of the American people.
So the voices of ugliness and violence at Trump rallies are not a recent invention. The spread of hatred, the framing of political opponents as enemies in battle, and the acceptance of violent politics has been at home inside the Republican brand for some time now. Donald Trump did not birth that environment of fear, hatred and violence, he is merely the guy who became the Republican nominee by thriving on that environment best.
Nor, we should note, is it new in the Republican party to try to earn votes by scaring their base and capitalizing on their ... basest... instincts. From Nixon's "southern strategy" to Reagan's "welfare queens", from George W. Bush's scapegoating of gays to Donald Trump's wall, the Republican party has built its house on fear, extremism, and paranoia.
Donald Trump is perhaps the most quintessential Republican candidate - he is certainly what the Republican party has been working to produce for the past decades.
And as long as the Republican party continues to believe that it is in its interest to gin up hatred, stoke fear and bigotry, and pretend not to see its own violent elements, Donald Trumps will continue to plague their ranks and their leadership. So this election, just defeating Trump is not enough. We must do more. We must show the Republicans that we do not simply have a problem with the disgusting symptom but the vile disease. Republicans must abandon their lunatic base and take the electoral lumps that come with it to build again a party that can not merely campaign, but also govern.